Where did you learn about money? In North America, we’re generally not great at talking about finances. Next to sex ed, it’s probably one of the bigger taboo subjects –though I’m willing to bet one would seem much more interesting than the other as a teenager!
It’s considered inappropriate to discuss among friends, much less strangers. So if it’s not taught in schools or at home, how can you be expected to have confidence in managing your money? And if the lack of knowledge makes it complicated enough to sort things out solo, how do you manage things if you’re partnered? Each camp, solo or partnered, believe the other group have it easier.
“At least they have two incomes and share expenses. They have double the money to work with”.
“Budgeting is so hard. We have different opinions on where it should be spent. I’m a saver, they’re a spender. It would be easier if I had to answer to no one.”
Is There An Advantage To Being Single Or Coupled When It Comes To Money?
Grass always looks greener on the other side, so the saying goes. It’s natural to long to be in other circumstances when you know the challenge you’re facing can be easier. What we often don’t see, because we’re not right in the thick of it, are the other challenges that come with it. So I thought it might not be just interesting, but valuable to take a look at whether managing finances, or aspects of it, are easier if you’re single or paired up. So there are three main areas:
- Learning about finances
- Managing financial aspect to accomplish your goal
- Budgeting and Income
Solo & Partnered: How It Affects Learning About Finances
When I first started thinking about this one, I wasn’t sure if it was worth talking about. I mean, either you choose to learn, or not. Learning can be a social activity (blogging & comments, discussion) or solitary. No matter how you learn, it’s a self driven activity. But when I started think about different aspects, it wasn’t so simple.
Your Starting Point Is Equal
Whether finances are discussed or not growing up, we subconsciously learn how to manage money by what we see: parents, extended family, friends, advertising, blogs and society in general. Even under the best circumstances, if you’re taught the basics, you WILL make financial mistakes and have a few less than helpful financial habits to address. No one is perfect. Everyone has something to learn.
Whether you’re happily single, or have a life partner, we all have a financial history, things to learn and financial habits to improve upon. Whether you started further behind the starting line, or were lucky enough to get a foundation growing up, whatever position you have, you’re the only one that can decide to learn more and make changes. Solo or with a partner, only the individual can decide to change.
Everyone Has The Same Resources
Once you’re an adult, no matter how far ahead or behind you are, it’s up to you to find a way to give yourself the knowledge you need. This is no different whether you’re on your own or have a partner. Today, the great thing is that access to knowledge is a level playing field. Yes, you may have a partner that can share some knowledge, but it takes a community to learn. No one can know everything.
The most effective way to learn is from a network of people and resources. Talk to your friends, family, read blogs, books and respected publications. Since we all have our strengths (and weaknesses), it would be dangerous for a couple to rely only on each other. We all have financial blind spots. They’re tricky little bastards to spot. Yes, a partner may see it, but they’re often too close to see it. A friend of a couple or singleton is much more likely to spot it. Not only are they not in the midst of it, they also have nothing to gain or lose, so there’s objectivity.
So solo or coupled, take advantage of all the resources around you, create a network of like minded individuals and learn from each other. This helps create objectivity, exponentially increases the knowledge available, will help you learn from others mistakes and provides a support system.
Solo & Partnered: How It Affects Accomplishing Goals
Goal setting, god know’s there are blogs dedicated entirely to this subject. So it’s safe to say this could probably be a post all it’s own. Setting goals, finding a plan of execution, motivation, sticking to the plan…. We all know this is hard. So is there a difference if you attack it alone or with a life partner?
If you’re single, you’re running the whole show. If YOU do nothing, nothing will happen. It’s ALL up to you. This may seem tiring at times, but there is a freedom that comes along with this. If you decide FI is your goal, you make a plan and make it happen. No negotiation, no questions asked. The opposite is also true, if you’d rather let life unfold and come what may, you can easily do that.
Conversely, if you have a partner, you need to accommodate two sets of wants and needs. No matter how well aligned you are in values and what you want out of life, you will have differences in what you each want at any given point. When that happens, you must find a way to meet each others needs and negotiate financial commitment for your goals.
Accountability & Support System
A key ingredient for sticking through with your goal is having accountability to someone and a support system in place. Both help you stay motivated, or at least honest about your progress, and a cheering squad to keep you going in moments when you want to stop.
There’s no hiding that having a partner can be a built in system for both. Some couples are more effective at this than others. It’s easy to lack objectivity and give each other a pass, or even re-enforce each others
reasons excuses. So does that mean you’re at a disadvantage if you’re single? Absolutely not! I’ve found friends are sometimes the best source to keep me accountable. It’s not to say my partner isn’t a great source but my friends have objectivity and have no investment in the outcome. So they have an easier time keeping me honest and cheering me on.
It’s also worth noting that your accountability and support system may vary depending on the goal. If it takes a community to provide encouragement and accountability all the way to the finish line, then being single can’t put you at a disadvantage!
Solo & Partnered: How It Affects Budgeting and Income
They say money is one of the leading causes of divorce. Given that fact, I expect your relationship status to swing the balance in this area; either in favour of singletons or couples.
Managing Your Money
This seems to be a game of trade offs. If you’re solo, you run the whole show, good or bad. You can manage your money, or not. Whatever happens is up to you. On the flip side, when you have a partner, you spend extra time discussing financial priorities, how to spend money, reconciling expenses, etc. Even if you keep separate accounts and split living expenses, you still need to negotiate how to split them, how much you’re each willing to pay for any given item, etc.
Let’s take the elephant in the room head on. If you have a double income household, you may have more disposable income than if you were going it alone. And I say may purposely because it all depends on how you each manage it. Higher income (or double income) doesn’t automatically equate more savings. So you may actually come out further ahead on your own if your partner’s values and spending habits aren’t aligned with yours. You also have the freedom to reduce your expenses without consulting anyone else.
There are also extra demands on your time. Your time outside of work is not all your own. If you’re single and want to try a side hustle, your extra time can be spend how you please.
Solo or Couple, The Scale Of Challenge Is Equal
For the most part, it seems your relationship status provide little to no advantage — or drawbacks. Picture a scale, the one where you can weigh to different objects against each other. If you put one relationship status on each side, the scale would be equal in most cases. For the most part, one situation or the other is merely a different configuration of pros and cons.
What has been your experience? Do you agree?